Mom's Returned to the Land of Castles and Step Dancing
I received the inevitable call Friday morning.
My mother's time in this world was quickly coming to an end. I was encouraged to get to the nursing home as soon as possible. She'd been under hospice care for nearly six months.
I was too late. She passed before my daughter, Meghan, or I could get there. My son, Patrick, who lives 30 miles away, never had a chance.
And, just like that, she was gone. Her name was Ellen and she was 86 years old.
They hadn't told my 90-year-old father, who resides in the same nursing home. Like her, he suffers from dementia and is under hospice care. His time is coming to end, as well.
I wasn't upset. I'm a rational being. I had to keep it together. I'm an only child.
Shortly upon arrival, my daughter went to my father's room and brought him down to her room.
With the help of a hospice nurse, we explained to him that she had passed.
He simply took a seat next to her bed and gazed upon her lifeless body. He didn't say a word.
She hadn't recognized him as her husband or my father for the past 10 years. That's why they were in separate rooms.
He is what they call a "Fallen Catholic." He had been raised in the Catholic Church, but only attended mass on Easter and Christmas with a good friend. Ironically, one of the aunts who raised him had been a nun who taught school.
As I watched him silently sit there, he appeared to have said a prayer, but he made no sign of the cross.
My mother, on the other hand, was Protestant and raised me in the same fashion.
Their 60-year relationship had appeared to defy the odds. Two Irish-Americans, one born and raised Protestant in Belfast, who became a naturalized citizen. The other, born in Chicago with an Irish ancestry of his own, was raised Catholic.
How could they possibly coincide under the circumstances?
Back in the day, a combination of those particular religions in Northern Ireland was highly frowned upon and downright dangerous. They're still at odds, but the senseless bloodshed has ceased -- for the time being. They've compromised.
As a young boy, I had asked my mother about the "Troubles" in her hometown. I had read about them in the newspapers my relatives would send us. There were nonstop bombings and killings. The graphic images were quite disturbing.
Where she had grown up and where my relatives still live was smack dab in the middle of the war zone.
She calmly told me that it really had nothing to do with religion. It was economics.
Under British rule, the protestants were the haves and the Catholics were the have nots. That was the main difference.
However, in her neighborhood, she added, the Protestants were not any better off than the Catholics. The majority got along just fine. In fact, some of her best friends were Catholic and vice versa.
She left it at that and we never really spoke about it, again.
Today, I thank her for those words of wisdom. I believe they've made me a better man.
We all have our differences and most of us, like her, can cut through the crap and expose "troubles" for what they are and not what they appear to be or what someone wants us to think they are.
Perhaps, there's hope for us all.
I'd like to think she's back home now, revisiting the places she kept close to her heart: the castles of Northern Ireland.
I'll bet she's been dancing a few jigs. too, having been an award-winning Irish dancer in her youth.
I'd give anything to watch her dance again. It's been a long time.